Social Security Basics

Basics to know about Social Security

  • Social Security benefits provide a critical safety net for millions of Americans, including many with PD.
  • Administered by the U.S. Social Security Administration there are two key sources of government paid (income) benefits for people with disabilities:
    1. Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), which “pays benefits to you and certain family members if you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.”
    2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which “pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources.”
  • In addition, persons who have been entitled to Social Security benefits for 24 months are eligible for free Medicare benefits.
  • The Medicare health benefit can be invaluable to People with Parkinson’s.
  • For most people, the medical requirements for disability payments are the same under both SSDI and SSI, and disability is determined by the same process.
  • In either case, SSA asks for information about your medical condition, work and education history to help it decide if you are “disabled.”
  • Keep in mind that the SSA definition of disability stands on its own, separate and apart from the ADA definition or other contractual definitions that may apply to you in other contexts.

How Social Security Defines “Disability”

While the specific definition of “disability” for Social Security purposes is in the law itself, here is SSA’s plain language description:

“We consider you disabled under Social Security rules if, due to a medical or mental condition:

  • You cannot do work that you did before and we decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your condition(s), and
  • Your disability is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.”

Content for this section provided by Mark Rubin, J.D.


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